Ultimate Beastermaster: Survival of the Fittest (Season 3, 2018)

Ultimate Beastmaster: Survival of the Fittest
(Season 3, 2018)

Countries: USA, South Korea, Great Britain, France, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Australia

Hosts:

USA: Tiki Barber, CM Punk
South Korea: Seo Kyung Suk, Park Kyeong Rim
Great Britain: Kate Abdo, Stu Bennett
France: Gilles Marini, Sandy Heribert
Germany: Micky Beisenherz, Jeannine Michaelsen
Mexico: Luis Ernesto Franco, Ines Sainz
Brazil: Rafinha Bastos, Anderson Silva
Australia: Dannii Minogue, Nick Cummins

Season 3 of The Ultimate Beastmaster is definitely a survival of the fittest. After last year, it seems they’ve spent those extra months to revamp the Beast. The show itself which felt more like the Ninja Warrior game show style is definitely feeling much more like a legitimate competition with a slight revamp in point system, modified obstacles and a new structure to the competition itself. There are more countries, less athletes, more possibilities to gain extra points based on speed and the show adds in a semifinals portion. For mega fans like myself who can’t help to binge the entire show over the weekend of the launch, its a lot to process whether all those changes made the show more competition or did it create an imbalance to the athletes in each round making it to the semifinals and then to the finals. However, I have to say, by the time I reached the finals, I was sold through and through on this new set-up for Ultimate Beastmaster.

Season 3 doesn’t show any signs of slowing down and that makes it so exciting because it gives this Netflix reality show not only an international twist but also has the perk of having the countries involved be hosted with their own languages. It is something I’ve appreciated from the first season and highlights some fantastic athletes. This season’s athletes are simply incredible. A lot of them that made it through really showed resilience, perseverance, motivation and even packed in some incredibly inspiring stories from different backgrounds. I might never train to conquer the Beast, it feels a little late but it did give me such an appreciation of the obstacles and respect for these fantastic athletes.

If you are like me, well, lets take a look at some of the changes more in depth and how I feel its improved Ultimate Beastmaster as a whole both from the entertainment value like the hosts and countries as well as the competition set-up itself. Note that there will be no spoilers. I won’t tell you who wins the season, who makes it to whichever part or mention particularly any athletes. The joy is letting their abilities and successes surprise you when you go watch it for yourself.

Ultimate Beastmaster

Contestants & Hosts

This year’s new addition is Australia and Great Britain for starters. They bring in their own rivalries along with some of the other countries also falling into their own competitions especially propelled by the hosts as they fight in their booths in past year. To be honest, the hosts themselves bring in some screen time and they are full of life. One of the features of Ultimate Beastmaster is that each country gets their show hosted by that country or the language the hosts are speaking. For me in Canada, well, we always get the US version of things which is not a bad thing. This year, Tiki Barber makes a return and CM Punk replaces last season’s co-host. I don’t know who he is but hearing Tiki Barber have the chance of calling him “Punk” all the line legitimately because its his name makes it kind of entertaining at times. There is a fair screen time for other hosts too.

In terms of contestants, this year’s is all about who they are. I like the fact that they decreased the amount of contestants making it one per country but adding 2 extra countries (I believe) to have 8 countries instead of 6 with 2 contestants to make it even more diverse and of course, the decreased amount lets us see more lengthy versions of their Beastmaster run in each level while also seeing more of their back story. In the previous seasons, it would favor over the country we were watching but in sportsmanship like manner, which makes this more of an actual competition, it gives the feeling of equal emphasis and that adds so much to the competition. Honestly, I have my more favorite contestants because we learn more about them and watch them through the levels so everyone gets to cheer for everyone or someone when we reach the semifinals or even the finals. It got me more involved. Sometimes the drama is a little heavy handed but I think in some cases, Ultimate Beastmaster also doubles as motivation that working out is a positive thing and inspiring as different outlets for different people in different country having different reasons that pushed to the sports and fitness that they choose to excel in.

Point System & Tournament Structure

In the past, from what I remember at least, the point system was accumulative over the 3 rounds and the lowest contestants like 2 or 4 or something would get eliminated. I did wonder on how I felt for the first few episodes when I saw that each round resets the points to zero and makes it structured around their successes in that round so that the contestants all get a clean slate for the next part and not have a head start on their points giving them an advantage to move on to the next round. At the same time, point thrusters are present as usual while they added something called mega point thrusters which count down and encourage the contestants to be faster to get there and maximize their points. Its good because while caution is important, the same amount of points is differentiated by their time in who comes out first. Mega thrusters also give the contestants a way to who is willing to make those risks to get ahead and sometimes, especially with one contestant this season, it cost them a lot.

What makes this more like a tournament is that every episode yields the top two to go into the semi-finals. And semi-finals are after each set of 3 episodes bringing in 6 contestants to do pretty much an endurance run of the entire obstacles as far as they can with on restart from a checkpoint. This is what makes it more like a tournament. The top few will go to the finals which now isn’t a race to the top but how far or how fast they can get to the top with any points as possible.

Obstacle Course

ultimate beastmaster s3

Finally, its impossible to not end this without talking about the obstacle courses. If you follow it like myself, you will see that some of the obstacles especially the particularly challenging ones are still around. It is nice to see that while this course is very favoring towards those with upper body strength, some of the courses are changed a little more to be a little easier but making some other parts also more challenging. Its these changes that give it a nice twist and refreshing to watch. Sometimes the little changes are all you need to round out the experience.

Overall, I’m a big fan of Ultimate Beastmaster. I love the new structure and the whole tournament style works really well. The new system and less countries and having more time to see the contestants and the obstacles in general all contribute to a better experience. Its an awesome change.  I’m hoping that it gets renewed again.

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To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

Check out the book review HERE.

Its not a secret that I’m not a huge fan of adaptations because a lot of times they lack the beauty what the words portray. However, I loved To All The Boys I’ve Love Before and you can see the review in the link above that I went and bought the second book full price (something I don’t do often so its a big deal). When Netflix showed off their trailer for it, I was pretty much sold. A part of me wondered how it would turn out but then, it had some a great premise that I thought there was no way that they could destroy it, especially when they even cast an Asian-American as their lead just like the book. Consider me happy just with that sole point.

However, let’s be objective, as much as I can and check it out!

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Director: Susan Johnson

Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Israel Broussard, John Corbett

A teenage girl’s secret love letters are exposed and wreak havoc on her love life. – IMDB

Its not surprise that I was a little skeptical as much as I wanted to be objective and not assume too much going in. To be honest, I was a little worried. Why? Well, the teen movies they’ve had on Netflix has been worryingly bad. F the Prom, #RealityHigh are just two very bad examples of how much I hated watching those two movies a lot. But then, To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved is based on a really solid novel. Its a simple premise with charming characters. Its pretty hard to mess up. And you know what? Netflix delivered all the way!

I loved the tone of the trailer and when we saw the actual outcome of the entire movie, it worked so well together. It took a moment or two to embrace some of the characters are the beginning and get into it but it really captured the essence of the novel itself, especially when I was feeling every bit the feelings I had when I was reading the book. So great job on that, Netflix! Its nice to see a well done adaptation, even with a detail or two changed around. I’m not really bothered a lot by changes in details as long as they work in the realm of films because some things works well in books and they don’t translate as well into movies. However, there is one thing that was changed around which made me wonder what the point was because it affected probably one other scene and didn’t make much of a difference whether it was shown or not. I’m avoiding spoilers here so if you read the book, you may know what I’m talking about.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before

 

For one and probably the most important, the Song sisters play a big role in the film in whichever presence they have. Lana Condor does a great job at being our main lead here as she takes on this clueless teen who has these fantasy notions of romance in her imaginary world and scared to actually fall in love. There’s a good deal of humor and clumsiness as you would seem in the teenage world from her unconfident driving to her desire to take over the role of her older sister and the fictional romantic world that gives her these more “behind the times” sort of love concepts. At the same time, this makes her letters being sent out every bit as amusing as the two main guys are the main contenders on her mind. The first being her sister’s recently ex-boyfriend Josh (Israel Broussard) and the most popular boy in her grade, Peter (Noah Centineo) who she ends up making a deal with to not let Josh think that she likes him anymore. I have to say that Noah Centineo casted as Peter was a little out of the left field for me. I didn’t quite picture him like that but his character did grow on me. Especially in his scenes with Lara Jean and watching how their characters developed and then their relationship also grew as their chemistry and connection was more apparent. It works because they are quite the clueless first love teenage characters who make bad decisions and have their own reasons for justifying it. Its this cluelessness especially in Lara Jean (who reminded me of one of my friends at that age) that makes it so charming and fun to watch.

to all the boys i've loved before

Aside from the fun romance bits, which does take up a decent amount of screentime, it also emphasizes on the family aspect. The three sisters are quite the presence. While Janel Parrish’s older sister Margot role is quickly disappeared into the background as more of a mental presence with everyone, her scenes are very much the big sister role who takes care of her family very well but also trying to find herself as she spreads her wings and leaves the comfortable protection of her home. At the same time, the physical charming and smart-aleck younger sister Kitty played by  Anna Cathcart is incredibly comedic as she pokes fun at her lame older sister who lacks the basic social skills and driving skills (and other things) but when the end of the day, they all do things for each other. That sisterly bond is shown so well also. John Corbett plays the father of these girls who is a widower trying to make things work amidst his busy job. His role wasn’t huge but at the same time, these girls along with their dad is living up to mom’s memories and her words as they try embrace those memories in each of their own way to be more courageous about their life decisions. Its a touching subplot in what feels like a teen romance but has a little more than just that which is what makes it also a great watch that has some heart string tugging moments outside of those romantic parts.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before

Overall, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a fun and charming teen coming of age romance drama/comedy all mixed up in a lovely package. Its a great adaptation of the novel albeit its slight changes because it captures the characters, their heartbreak, their fears and insecurities and gives them enough back story to make their relationships, whether friendship, family or romance, enough space to grow but paced properly to make it always have something meaningful. There are some over the top moments but to be honest, the book had some of those moments as well. The charm and charisma of the film comes not only in the fun source material but also how this young cast gave it life especially when we look at Anna Cathcart, Lana Condor and Noa Centineo. If you like teen romance drama/comedy type films, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is an awesome choice.

TV Binge: Queer Eye (Season 1, 2018)

Nailed it Season 2 (TV Binge HERE) gave me the push I needed to start up Queer Eye on Netflix. I never saw the original on TV so I’ve only ever heard of what it is and never really knew. However, the mini special episode on Nailed It was so fun that I knew that I had to check it out.

Queer Eye (Season 1, 2018)

Queer Eye

Hosts: Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Jonathan Van Ness, Antoni Porowski, Tan France

A new Fab Five set out to Atlanta to help the city’s straight men refine their wardrobes, grooming, diet, cultural pursuits, and home décor. – IMDB

Queer Eye starts off with the opening segment with the Fab 5 talking about being a part of this team and what they say is exactly the perfect way to start it off with two key quotes:

“The original show was fighting for tolerance. Our fight is for acceptance.” – Tan

“My goal is to figure out how we’re similar as opposed to how different we are.” – Antoni

Queer Eye does a great job at delivering on their goals of acceptance and highlighting what makes LGBT similar. Other than when I was a child and found it odd, I’ve always been open-minded about the LGBT community so I don’t quite understand what the difference is other than the fact that they like a different gender. However, the show itself delivers more than that. For one, there’s the Fab 5. Second, we need to take a look at these makeover stories and how impactful and meaningful they are and finally, the message it wants to deliver as a whole and the overall enjoyment of the series.

Fab 5

Like I said before, I’ve never watched the original so I have no comparison (not that I think it needs to be compared). This Fab 5 is comprised of Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown and Jonathan Van Ness. As a group, they take care of food & wine, fashion, design, culture and grooming respectively. As a group, they blend so well together on screen from how they admire each other’s work and how to approach their game plan of the overall makeover. There are some great moments as a group throughout the season because they each have their expertise. With that said, each of the Fab 5’s expertise brings a lot to the table. They each know what they are doing and it really makes the viewers feel that the knowledge they bring is educating the public. They never go extreme and stuff anything down anyone’s throats but they feel so genuine to watch because of their dedication to the cause. I’ve watched and rewatched the show a lot of times and their reactions and expressions always bring me so much joy and whatever emotions. They are all so unique in their personality that it blends so well to make it an entertaining watch.

Queer Eye

As we look at the makeover stories here, the first season was our introduction to what the Fab 5 wanted to achieve and determine what they were capable of. In that sense, the first episode set the tone perfectly with an older gentlemen who was open-minded but also fell into some misconceptions in how gay men were identified. For example when he asks who wears the pants in the relationship. However, be it the age difference or the lack of confidence of their first makeover person, it all works well to show what the Fab 5 is all about even if you’ve never seen the original. They educate not only in their own domains and its not only a physical transformation but also a mental transformation as they try to help build confidence or help them see a better version of themselves that someone will want to be. Be it this first episode called “You Can’t Fix Ugly” or the other episodes in the season, you can see the different backgrounds and the different perspectives as the Fab 5 remain open-minded and honest about the feelings and views as they also learn about the people they are dealing with to not only transform the person of the week but also take away from that experience. Its a really fantastic thing to see communication especially in the current state of the world and all the news we hear about the bad stuff going on. Season 1 followed along very strong in the candidates that were chosen in the following episodes. There were local heroes like a fireman trying to get ready to raise enough money for a fireman program, a man coming out to his family, other one dealing with opening up himself to the people in his life, a father of six trying to make it all happen in the everyday chaos then of course one of the best of the season, was the police officer. Its a lot of variety and that makes it fresh and new to watch as well as educational to see the different views people have on the different topics in the society. There’s a lot of heartstrings to be tugged here and a few times, I was looking for my box of Kleenex (and I mean, in some cases, every rewatch gets me all over again).

Queer Eye

Suffice to say that I’m a huge fan of the show. Queer Eye delivers on so many levels. The show itself and the Fab 5 have a great personality that works so well in the realm of what they are doing. In many ways, a lot of what they are saying and teaching is relatable because its not just a physical transformation. At the same time, it works well to showcase the initial statement of how its about acceptance of everyone no matter the differences but rather to see the similarities that everyone has. I think the message is a great one and because of these heartfelt stories and the makeover, its entertaining and educational and that makes for some great positive reality TV and something I totally recommend for everyone.

TV Binge: Nailed It (Season 2, 2018)

If you missed the first season recap, you can find it HERE.

Probably one of the fastest TV binges ever! While I have a ton of TV binges I have to work on, Nailed It is surprisingly easy to write about so during this taxing week, I decided to put a lot of reality TV binges in advance.

Nailed It (Season 2, 2018)

Nailed It Season 2

Hosts: Nicole Byer, Jacques Torres

Guest Judges: Jon Gabrus, Ron Ben-Israel, Johnny Hekker, Waylynn Lucas, Art Smith, Joshua John Russell, Antoni Porowski

Nailed It is a pretty lovely concept and it works overall as a reality TV show. If you want the nutshell version of how I liked the first season, I liked it enough for me to hop right onto it the first weekend after it launched and then probably finished it over 2 days. Its fairly short episodes and there is only 6 + 1 episodes so its not exactly impossible to do either. In some ways, the entertainment value is there. Nicole Byer is great at her job. I know some people think she is annoying to watch but I actually think in Season 2, her and Jacques Torres has found somewhat of a balance and chemistry to make it work. I like her bombastic personality and its that personality that makes it fun to watch. The same goes for the judges who make their way onto the show which all have something to offer and add a little light to everything.

Nailed It

However, sadly, I do feel that Nailed It in Season 2 has betrayed its concept a little. Even if you went to Wikipedia or IMDB, they call it an amateur bake-off reality TV series. However, it didn’t quite go that patch especially in the first round of challenges as we saw watermelon carving and then a football field reconstruction where the extend of making food was organizing, chopping and making guacamole. All very noble things to learn how to do and hard to put together but doesn’t quite fit into the formula that the show is trying to sell initially. Maybe its because I watched this for the amateur baker angle that it disappointed me. Technically, I mean, this all does fit into the idea because Nailed It is just about hot messes that happen, right? So, you could apply it to anything that can be recreated.

Nailed It

Fact is, I’d be lying if I said that Nailed It Season 2 wasn’t entertaining. It was pretty entertaining and I loved the Queer Eye crossover episode which was just too short. That episode actually got me to sit down and actually get started on that series, which I’ll be doing a TV Binge on very soon for both seasons because well, while this one I’ve only watched once since the end of June. I’ve already watched Queer Eye both seasons twice. I’m going on a tangent so lets bring it back to Nailed It! Entertaining still but not quite what I expected with the additional diversity of the projects. When I get to the new reality TV Baking competition series Sugar Rush soon also, we’ll talk about how this could go so many different themes instead of going into these odd non-baking challenges. I wouldn’t be so disappointed if it was baking savory snacks to be honest. Its just that baking thing that some challenges was missing and I felt like Nailed It lost its way just a little every once in a while.

But then, if Nicole Byer is back for Season 3 of Nailed It, I’d be down to watch some more.

TV Binge: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 2, 2018)

It sure feels like a long time that I have been working on this TV Binge. A really long time! If you missed the Season 1 TV Binge post, you can find it HERE.

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 2, 2018)

a series of unfortunate events s2

Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith, K. Todd Freeman, Lucy Punch, Nathan Fillion, Sara Canning, Patrick Breen, Sara Rue

Stepping right off from Season 1, the Baudelaire Orphans now have gone through a bunch of odd guardians. Each one failing because of the horrible Count Olaf and his mischief or simply because they were some shady or clueless characters. Some cases even a mesh of the two components. It was filled with dark humor and a rather formulaic way of the Baudelaires always getting away. Entertaining as always but still the idea of the episodes always followed a same pattern. Unlike a lot of viewers, the first season took me a little while to get into. With where it left off in Season 1, this Netflix Original has established itself and its tone along with the characters so we should be in for a fun ride in Season 2.

Fortunately, we do get exactly that. Filled with more clever vocabulary lessons and random narration from Patrick Warburton in the oddest locations, the Baudelaires set off for a second season that is much more sinister and dangerous than the previous one. While the tone of the show hasn’t changed much, the events are more brutal. This is still a family show so the camera always cuts away from the potentially disgusting bits. Before we get ahead of ourselves too much, Season 2 covered Books 5 to 9 in the series: Austere Academy, Ersatz Elevator, Vile Village, Hostile Hospital and Carnivorous Carnival. Structured much like the first season, each book adaptation is separated into two parts. We get some new characters introduced (and in some cases, taken away). Honestly, I like this structure, it gives it a somewhat nice slice of moment. You can choose to binge watch the entire series if you want but you can also watch it like separate stories as the Baudelaires escape Count Olaf with less and less leeway leading to a nail-biting cliffhanger.

Overall, Season 2 is pretty strong. I got involved and immersed a lot quicker. It helps to see each of the characters grow more mature and smarter. The Baudelaires end up gaining a lot of coy and street smarts to pair with their natural intelligence. They each get their own spotlight, even little Sunny. The series remembers to be fair. As they get smarter, Count Olaf also devises much more intricate plans that give us surprises and each part as its own twists and turns that work to its advantage.

For things I loved/liked a lot in Season 2:

New Friends

A Series of Unfortunate Events

At the end of season 1, we stopped when we saw the Quagmires, now landing in the first six episode of this season. Quagmires and Baudelaires learn about their similarities and they are both brave and resourceful in their own ways. Call them the dynamic foursome if you will but the bonds they create in Austere Academy carries them to save these loyal friends for the next two stories in Ersatz Elevator and Vile Village. Its a nice change in pace to have them here. While most of the credit does go to following closely to the source materials pacing, it is nice to see these four work so well together. In these extreme situations, it is important to have allies.

New Villain

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lucy Punch joins the villainous Count Olaf troupe  as the wealthy woman who is the student of Count Olaf and his girlfriend, Esme Squalor. She is packed with all kinds of accents and characters. Honestly, she is a joy to watch on screen. I’ve only seen her do weird odd roles in other movies before so its quite the breather to see her really embrace this role and take it in a wonderfully entertaining and wicked direction, especially in Hostile Hospital. She adds just a little bit of extra wickedness to Count Olaf which changes the game a little from the silly henchmen & henchwomen in his ragtag troop.

New VFD Members

a series of unfortunate events

VFD and a mysterious sugar bowl, along with the reveal of the narrator’s identity all get a part in Season 2. It adds depth and context as well as some answers to the million of questions stirring in our minds that are left unanswered for both the viewers and the Baudelaires. Nathan Fillion adds his charming self as Jacques Snicket who ends up recruiting Olivia Calaban, a librarian who tries to help the children and is smart enough to be suspicious. Olivia Calaban is a wonderful character played by Sara Rue and is eventually recruited into VFD. She has some of the answers but being new, she is more passionate about the mission that Jacques Snicket teaches her. They are a great team and as we learn about the VFD, we see that its a chase to figure out how everything pieces together.

New Locations

a series of unfortunate events

A Series of Unfortunate Events has been very location-based so far. In the first season, we had some incredibly imaginative locations belonging to an array of odd characters. In Season 2, we continue on with this trend. We see the Austere Academy and the orphan’s shack. In Ersatz Elevator, we move to a wealthy penthouse location as well as the various fishy (literally) restaurants. Then we move on to the Vile Village where crows migrate from one location to the next at a set routine. Hostile Hospital is a incomplete half hospital with one of its wings still in construction limbo and of course, the most fascinating of all, is the rundown circus of Madame Lulu’s Caligari Carnival. The production design and tone and lighting all add to the environment of the series.

Overall…I kept it quite to the point in this one. I still love the young cast playing the Baudelaire Orphans. They are fantastic. Neil Patrick Harris is great as Count Olaf. The success of Season 2 despite its episode formula is the depth of the story. We learn more, the characters develop further and the situation gets more dire and dangerous. It has all the great points of the first season and adds a little more, just enough to keep us curious but still unveiling a bit more to give the story some context. With the fantastic ending and the brilliant pacing in Season 2, I can’t wait for Season 3 (which should be the final season if they follow the progression of the books).

TV Binge: On My Block (Season 1, 2018)

I have a ton of TV Binge to review but after finishing On My Block this past weekend (for the second time), I decided to bump this one up so we could look at it a little earlier. I picked this out completely spontaneously and well, lets just say that its worth some talk about and if you haven’t seen it, you probably should. I promise to avoid the big spoilers but if you plan on watching this series, its probably best read only the top portion and not look at the breakdown. I should have a spoiler alert in there just to stop you to from going further.

On My Block (Season 1, 2018)

On My Block

Creator: Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft, Lauren Iungerich

Cast: Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Diego Tinoco, Brett Gray, Ronni Hawk, Peggy Blow, Julio Macias, Jessica Marie Garcia

A coming-of-age comedy about four bright, street-savvy friends navigating their way through high school in the gritty inner city of South Central Los Angeles. – IMDB

I’ve talked about my disappointment in teen movies lately on Netflix with F the Prom (review) and #RealityHigh (review) so for me to jump into this one was quite the spontaneous event. I knew nothing about this series beforehand and while it seemed like it was a teen comedy and most of the time, it did maintain the humor throughout because of its charismatic and charming young cast, it still highlighted some of the underlying issues in the neighborhood that they lived in. For example, when they heard gunshots, they would guess casually which type it was. With that said, once the first episode started, it reminded me of my experience watching (and reading) Freedom Writers (review), which happens to be one of my favorite movies and such a powerful movie to say the least. On My Block gave me exactly the same feeling and trust me when I say that its a great compliment from me to the creators and cast of this show.

The structure of the show is also very binge-worthy with 10 episodes of 30 minutes each. It goes for a quick season and just fun little doses of the story which keeps it paced quick enough to understand the situation and the teens. The story itself packs in all kinds of relationships and secrets. Its a coming of age for each of the teens in this group as new people join into their crew and situations occur with family. Everyone has their own story and their own struggle and they are growing and adapting and reacting to everything around them. It keeps the story focused and fun because while they struggle, there is this bond that makes them so special to watch. Not to mention, they have an amazing soundtrack to match up everything here.

The charm of the show does lie in its great writing but also in how Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Diego Tinoco and Brett Gray take on their roles as Monse, Ruby, Cesar and Jamal respectively. They add a great deal of personality and it gives their characters such a genuine and believable quality to it all. We cheer for them and laugh with them while celebrate their little successes and feel bad for their failures. Life might seem trivial in their eyes but they also have much bigger things to deal with in the background especially with their neighborhood their in. Its a unique (because it is very rarely used at least to my knowledge) setting and I don’t know how accurate it reflects this urban community but its nice to see a show not focused on rich kids with their self-inflicted problems (for the most part). Its  refreshing angle and an intriguing one that has me very excited for season 2, which I believe has been announced since I finished the season.  But then they also have some fun supporting characters that really are incredibly fun as well from Olivia (Ronnie Hawk) to Ruby’s grandmother (Peggy Blow) and of course Spooky (Julia Macias).

On My Block highlights a lot of great themes and packs in some great characters. If you haven’t seen the series, my suggestion is this point forward will have *mild spoilers* as I go into a more in-depth breakdown of different elements.

Friendship

On My Block

There’s something so naive and yet great about this friendship between the four main characters here. Monse, Jamal, Cesar and Ruby.These childhood friends have such a great dynamic despite being different in their own goals and personalities. However, its these differences that compliment each other and make for such comedic moments which gives this story, despite its shadowing difficulties from each character and their backgrounds and situations, a much less intense sort of vibe.

on my block

Along with these childhood friends, Ruby’s house is inhabited by a family friend’s daughter, Olivia. Its the first girl friend that Monse actually connects with. The way that their friendship develops is quite something to be admired. Many shows us boys as a breaking point between girls but these two show genuine respect for each other and put their friendship before other things. Its truly some goals to see happen more in TV series, especially in teen shows.

Love

On My Block

It’s hard to do shows without the love arc and I have to say that this friendship we see is so strong that it’s hard to see that Monse and Cesar have a thing going on in secret. Somehow the being in secret part is also quite apparent so its funny how Jamal and Ruby haven’t seen through it. However, I like this little love story they have going on here. Plus, you add in the fact of finding a balance between a friendship and loving someone. You can totally see their struggle but also fall in love with them a little as well.  On the other hand, we also have the Ruby’s infatuation with Olivia and then Olivia’s obvious attraction to Cesar which takes a general play in the series as well. Ruby does a lot of sweet and corny things but I think its because of these things that makes his character such a memorable one as well.

Personal Dilemmas

On My Block

While the show does pace itself fairly quickly, the four characters each have their own focus. Monse first start with her love issue but then morphs into tracking a lady she brushes by and she suspects is her mother who left her when she was a baby. Cesar has his gang background that he struggles to accept especially as his group of friends tries very hard to keep him as he was before he was jumped in. That part of the story is intriguing especially as we get to see him bond with his brother, Spooky and realize that everyone has their own dreams. Ruby on the other hand maybe is the most fortunate as he turns into the goofy guy who really just wants some privacy and have his own room while balancing out the group but trying to impress Olivia. Finally, Jamal probably has the simplest but also the oddest personal dilemma and goal: the first is to impress his dad and pretend to be in the football team which ends up being some of the most hilarious parts in the story. The comedic moments with Jamal continues as he looks at his dream and belief that takes him on a treasure hunt for what he believes is the RollerWorld money. As crazy as his schemes are and everyone with their own problems and while four characters seems like a lot to track in such a short season run time, it definitely covers what it needs to enough to connect with these four.

Memorable Supporting/Cameo Characters

on my block

There are so many supporting characters here. I can’t quite place whether Olivia is considered a supporting character but she does get a lot of time with the group since she’s the new addition. Possibly the most hilarious one goes to Peggy Blow as Abuelita. She is a quirky one. While she seems like the silly grandma in the background, she also is the one that helps out in the background as well and says some hilarious things. She’s hard but supportive, exactly how I remember my grandparents. She supports Jamal through RollerWorld and helps Olivia and Ruby when they need it even when she feels underappreciated. In many ways, she is more there than the parents and teaches some important values to them. As we go along, this group meets all these colorful characters from the parents of these four to a man who finds company in a garden gnome.

Overall

On My Block is absolutely a great binge. It was so great that I binged it a second time and almost wanted to go for a third time. Great young characters set in a dangerous backdrop which makes a tone change almost halfway through. There’s a lot of personal dilemma and character development. The soundtrack is awesome and well, even in its dangerous and dramatic moments, they have a decent amount of comedy to balance it out. Its tough to find charming and unique teen TV shows nowadays but this one doesn’t only highlight a specific group but also does a great job at it while delivering a fantastic story. Its probably going to be a long wait for Season 2 (hopefully not), but I’m definitely looking forward to see where it goes, especially with the cliffhanger ending of Season 1. I have a few guesses but the creators/writers of the show have caught me off-guard quite a few times so I’m guessing they’ll do something unpredictable as well.

Have you seen On My Block? Thoughts?

TV Binge: Mindhunter (Season 1, 2017)

What do you know? Back to back TV Binges this week! To be honest, I have so many TV series that I finished but never have posted from way back in January so I’m making my way sporadically through it as I see the inspiration to write it up. So here we are with the next one as I finish up a book and get a recipe post together!

Netflix series have been rather fun for the most part and since I love Criminal Minds and the behavior analysis thing, we had our eye on Mindhunter for a while so we finally got through it fairly quickly!

Mindhunter (Season 1)

mindhunter

Creator: Joe Penhall

Cast: Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Hannah Gross, Anna Torv, Cameron Britton, Joseph Cross

In the late 1970s two FBI agents expand criminal science by delving into the psychology of murder and getting uneasily close to all-too-real monsters. – IMDB

Before Criminal Minds hit us with their engaging Behavior Analysis Unit cases, there were these guys here that established the team that opened the path of learning about behavior analysis of the criminal mind. With that said, Mindhunter is one of the most exhilarating, entertaining and impressive shows to be on the Netflix Originals circuit and I’ve been definitely impressed with quite a bit of them. The cast stands out and the way the show is done also works really well. It is very smart to not bombard the show with a myriad of characters and keeping a few main ones so that we can truly see their character development and notice how their relationship, regardless of work or love, does change and grow. While there are cases to solve for this team and it shows up here and there, it never feels like that is the absolute highlight rather than just the way the two FBI agents are approaching each situation that they encounter.

mindhunter

The core characters are the leading FBI agents, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany). Part of the show’s dynamic is in this duo. Being least experienced, Holden tends to be more rash and make less thought out decisions while Bill tends to anticipate how to play more with the FBI guidelines and has his own bag of experience to make it work. It is in these clashes of approaches and the desire to achieve the same end goal that fleshes out their characters so well. Especially when other elements are taken here like Holden’s girlfriend Debbie (Hannah Gross) who doesn’t always have the biggest role but challenges him on some of his thoughts and calls out his crap because she doesn’t stand for particularly the change in personality as the show progresses. And of course, another key link is when they bring in Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) who brings another strong character.

Mindhunter

The best part of the show however do go to the duo’s time chatting up with serial killers as they try to get them to talk about their kills and find a connection in why they do it or a pattern of character traits. Its pretty amazing because as they talk to them, you can see a change in personality also particularly with Holden. The credit does go to Jonathan Groff for delivering on the subtle complexities of this character and his development along with a fantastic script for the show. It can’t be denied that the highlight of the show was the conversations with Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton). The depth and unspoken uneasy vibe with this portrayal was so amazing. An absolute showstopper performance.

There’s a lot to love about Mindhunter. Its well-written for starters. Its thought-provoking and deep with its material it tackles. And they get together a great cast that delivers on these complex characters and gives them a lot of meaning development and arcs. We are definitely waiting for Season 2.